• Sat
  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 1:34am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 5:14am

Revealing Hong Kong identity numbers is not a privacy issue

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Corporate governance advocate David Webb has come up with an interesting wheeze to persuade the government to drop its planned move to remove directors' addresses and ID numbers from the Company Registry. The ostensible reason for the government's move is to protect directors' privacy. But, as Webb and other opponents of the proposed change argue, the HKID isn't something private like a PIN number or a password that authenticates you. It is simply a more precise identifier than a name, since a number of different people can have the same name, but not the same ID number.

Revealing an ID number will divulge nothing more about a person other than that he is a particular person and not another. So Webb's suggestion is that everyone should publish their HKID number to make the point that publishing ID numbers is not a privacy issue.

So just for the record, the ID number of Howard Winn is K285774(A). David Webb's is P135143(9). Only those engaged in wrongdoing need worry about revealing their ID numbers. It seems odd that the government should be helping them.

 

Rethinking incinerator

There is some dismay among green groups over what they believe is the government's determination to push ahead with "incineration" as a way of dealing with Hong Kong's municipal waste. Readers will be aware that plans to build a traditional mass burn incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau off south Lantau were shelved last year by the Legislative Council. However, such despondency appears to be misplaced, since the government is committed to rethinking the project. There has been some confusion as "incineration" has been loosely used to include all processes using heat such as traditional incineration and plasma arc.

However, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said in December last year that the Environmental Protection Department would study different technologies for dealing with waste, including plasma arc. This was confirmed recently when another senior figure told Lai See that the EPD would bring in "experts" to brief them, rather than salesmen or consultants.

 

The business of being Li Na

Mainland tennis player Li Na may have come second in the Australian Open, but she is well on her way to becoming the highest-earning female athlete. According to Forbes magazine, despite slipping down the tennis ranking Maria Sharapova was the highest-paid female athlete for the year ending July 2012 - her eighth consecutive year - with earnings of US$27.1 million. Li Na was second with US$18.4 million, a remarkable jump from eighth position in 2011, aided by winning the French Open.

Martin Jolly, the Hong Kong-based Asia-Pacific senior vice-president and managing director for sports and entertainment management group IMG told the Australian Financial Review that he expected Li to overhaul Sharapova's earnings soon. The reason being that she has the market behind her and there is no bigger market than China, and she is a well-liked personality both on the mainland and abroad.

One key to her rising financial status, according to the website The Li-Ning Tower, is that she is apparently unique in Nike's stable of tennis superstars in having two other brands on her shirt. The Mercedes-Benz logo adorns her right sleeve while the left goes to Taikang Life, one of the mainland's largest life insurance companies.

 

Banking gets better

The CBI/PwC quarterly survey paints a surprisingly optimistic view of Britain's financial scene for the fourth quarter of 2012. It "shows a marked and very welcome improvement in confidence across the industry, fuelled by strengthening profitability and predictions for stronger revenues in 2013".

Nearly every subsector in the industry - banking, building societies, general insurance, life insurance, and investment is more upbeat about the future. The one notable exception is securities trading, which was by far the most downbeat with all of the sector's key numbers including volume of business, revenues and overall profitability still falling.

The best news seems to be that the squeeze on operating costs that was a feature in 2012 appears to have hit bottom, which means fewer lay-offs.

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